If you are one of those Nigerians who has a habit of relieving themselves in the open--in the full glare of passersby and motorists--President Muhammadu Buhari now has his eyes on you.
Speaking during the inauguration of the National Action Plan for Revitalization of Water Supply, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) in Abuja on Thursday, November 8, 2018, President Buhari declared a state of emergency on Nigeria’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene sectors and decried the poor sanitary conditions of Nigerians.
”Our country now ranks No 2 in the global rating on Open Defecation as about 25 percent of our population are practicing open defecation”, Buhari said.
There's still cause for cheer, however
The president added that things are getting better, however.
“Access to piped water services which was 32 percent in 1990 has declined to 7 percent in 2015; access to improved sanitation has also decreased from 38 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2015.
“WASH services at the rural areas are unsustainable as 46 percent of all water schemes are non-functional, and the share of our spending on WASH sector has been declining from 0.70 percent of the GDP in 1990 to about 0.27 percent in 2015 which is far below the 0.70 percent at the West African regional level", he said.
The president directed governments at all levels to redouble efforts and work towards meeting the nation’s water supply and sanitation needs.
Buhari warns state governors
The President described the statistics on open defecation, access to piped water services and sanitation in the country as ”disturbing”.
He warned that henceforth, the federal government’s support to states will be hinged on their commitment to implementing the National WASH Action Plan in their respective states, and ending open defecation by 2025.
State governments and development partners who were present at this event were reminded about ”the high prevalence of water-borne diseases that are being reported in different parts of the country”.
”We cannot and will not continue to allow these preventable occurrences to decimate our population,’’ Buhari warned.
Nigeria missed the MDGs, looks forward to SDGs
President Buhari said he was aware that Nigeria did not meet the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) targets for Water Supply and Sanitation which elapsed in 2015.
“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets (6.1 & 6.2) for WASH are even more demanding as they require WASH services to be provided in adequate quantity and quality on premises at affordable prices.
”From the inception of this administration, we have demonstrated serious commitment to the development of the water sector by preserving the Ministry of Water Resources and subsequently approving the 15-year roadmap developed for the sector.
“The transformation being witnessed in the sector since then is highly commendable.
”I have no doubt that the on-going initiatives including the implementation of the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) in the Ministry will take the water sector to improved performance and supply, thereby meeting the national aspirations as well as the SDGs,” he said.
More Nigerians own cell phones than toilets
Open defecation is common across Nigeria where access to (clean) toilets is a luxury in several communities.
According to the the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more people have access to cell phones in Nigeria than they have to toilets.
Quoting a 2018 report by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Chief of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), UNICEF, Zaid Jurji, said in September, 2018, that 140 million people in Nigeria own cell phones, while only 97 million have access to improved sanitation.
Jurji added that only 39 per cent of Nigerians use an improved toilet that is not shared by more than one household.
Of the 46 million people who still practice open defecation in Nigeria, 32 percent live in rural areas and 12 percent in urban areas, according to UNICEF.